Magazine article New African

The Reason to Believe

Magazine article New African

The Reason to Believe

Article excerpt

Yes, we knew that he would do it. The poll of polls said it, weeks before Election Day. But no-one expected the massive landslide it turned out to be--Barack Obama's 364 collegiate votes to John McCain's 162. Simply incredible! And with that, America and the world got the first African-American president of the United States of America--a victory that has brought hope to every corner of the world. Oladipo Salimonu reports.

He did it. But not without their sanction. A black man is president of America and the people of that country elected him. Four years ago, in the wake of an invasion that appalled the world, the election in America that returned President George Bush to the White House had headlines screaming the world over. "How can 59,054,087 people be so dumb?", one asked in London.

Four years later, another election that held the whole world in even greater thrall has produced a result that thrilled the world. The victory is Obama's, but as though aware that it had a global audience such as never before, the greater victory was of the system that elected him president. It acquitted itself, and the whole nation it represents, brilliantly, and proved America's political system (if not its politics) to be without peer in the world.

Let us consider the facts: Of the two men running for president, one, John McCain, was very powerful politically, and a grizzled veteran of the US armed forces. A scion of a family of US Navy royalty, he also laid claim to a personal fortune of about $140m. And he was a member of the nation's majority ethnic group that comprised 80% of the population (including Hispanic whites; European-descended people make up 68%).

The other man, Barack Obama, was a 47-year-old who had not even completed a first term in the US Senate. He was worth $1m, and that, only after he signed a $1.9m deal to write three books (the first of which is the best-selling The Audacity of Hope) shortly before the election. (In an interesting aside, Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, has, after 36 years as a member of the most exclusive and powerful political club in the world, a personal net worth of about $150,000. Many of our African leaders will no doubt find this particularly astonishing.)

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Also, Obama was a member of one of that nation's ethnic minority groups, which make up about 13% of the population. In almost any country in the world, big or small, developed or only developing, the result would have been a foregone conclusion and the latter candidate would have lost. But not this country, not this time, and not this man. Responding to his message of "hope", "change" and "inclusiveness", the American political system produced a landslide victory that has bestowed upon this man more power than any black man has had on a global level in the modern history of the world. And this describes a poignant arc in world history: This descendant of Africa will now see to the affairs of his country and the world from the innermost sanctum of a White House built by the labour of enslaved Africans. History has indeed come full circle.

All this began in 2004 with a decision to have a then rising (and yet to be elected to the Senate) star of the Democratic Party deliver the keynote address at that party's national convention. That speech, entitled "The Audacity of Hope", proclaimed the emergence of a distinct voice with a profound message. And true to the timbre of that message, its author has never wavered in his beliefs and the core values and principles that undergird that message.

As politicians in America and leaders the world over prostrated before a decision by President Bush to invade Iraq, Obama's was one of the dissenting voices denouncing the decision. Considered political suicide at the time, in a country still reeling from the affront of a terrorist attack on it, Obama's courageous criticism of the war became the defining decision of his political career. …

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